I looked around. All the adults were preoccupied - either watching the football game, playing with the baby or reading the newspaper. My brother & sister were playing a game.
I quietly crept up the stairs to the kitchen. My mom had made my most absolute favorite dessert bar ever - Special K bars. Special K, peanut butter, and corn syrup, topped with melted chocolate chips. Just thinking about them made me drool.
The pan was on the counter. We had already had dessert, so I was safe sneaking one without anyone making a fuss. Mom would think one of my aunts or uncles took it.
I slid my finger under the piece I wanted and eased it out of the pan.
Where to eat it? It was too cold outside. I decided the bathroom. I could savor it, and if any adult came looking for me, it was a good excuse to be gone from the family gathering. Then I could wash the evidence from my hands and mouth.
I still remember sitting on the edge of the tub in my newly-married aunt & uncle's rented house, savoring that bar. We were celebrating Thanksgiving with Neil & Becky, my mom's brother and his new wife. My Aunt Lyn, Uncle Dave and cousin Matthew were there too, along with my grandmother and my family.
We were a much smaller family then. I was eleven, so Matthew was about 18 months that Thanksgiving. Now, I'm *eh-hem* older. Uncle Dave & Aunt Lyn had three more boys, Uncle Neil & Aunt Becky had four children - over the next eight years I went from having one Nyberg cousin to having eight. And I loved it.
And every year we would descend upon Uncle Neil & Aunt Becky's house in Battle Creek. Not just for Thanksgiving, but for a whole weekend. I remember camping out on the living room floor, the family room floor. I even slept under the dining room table a couple of years.
After entirely way-t0-many years, the family decided that Neil & Becky needed a break from hosting our family - which had grown from ten people to about 30, depending upon whose significant other was going to join us in any given year - or which cousin had gotten married.
(And in case you're wondering, yes, we would all stay with Uncle Neil & Aunt Becky. For two nights. In their house. In recent years, their very generous, and out-of-town neighbor allowed the family to use their house for sleeping, which helped keep the sleeping bags out of the living room.)
This year, we're carrying our Thanksgiving traditions to Rockford, where my grandmother and her husband recently moved into a retirement home. It will be a different location, but we will still sing the doxology in four-part harmony, Uncle Neil will still read Psalm 100 before we eat, and we will still share around the tables for what we are thankful this year.
Then, out-of-town family will descend to my mother's house, and to my house, for two nights. Because, you know, that's tradition. And because we love to be a family together.
In the midst of the hurried "can-I-figure-out-how-to-keep-it-warm-tomorrow" pre-baking, in the midst of the hurried "children-will-you-please!" cleaning, I remember the reason why I'm doing all this.
Because my family - my grandmother, my aunts & uncles & cousins, my brother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews - so enjoy each others' company that one day is just not enough.
What a blessing.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
photo property of D Sharon Pruitt, flickr.com